Last night, entrepreneur and libertarian Peter Thiel was taking questions from students gathered to hear him speak at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) when scores of protesters broke into the venue and shouted Thiel down, halting the event. The Berkeley Forum, the student organization that hosted the event, later criticized the protesters for depriving Thiel and audience members of the opportunity to “engage in productive discussion.”» Read More
Yesterday, we covered statements made by United States Senators during the first half of yesterday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism on the role of law enforcement in combating sexual assaults on campus.
Today, we’ll analyze the testimony provided by the witnesses who spoke during the second panel of that hearing, including Angela Fleischer, Assistant Director of Student Support and Intervention for Confidential Advising at Southern Oregon University; Kathy Zoner, Chief of the Cornell University Police Department; and Peg Langhammer, Executive Director of Day One Sexual Assault and Trauma Center.» Read More
In October, Arizona State University (ASU) Undergraduate Student Government (USG) senator Isabelle Murray was impeached after her peers charged her with speaking to the student newspaper The State Press without notifying USG leadership in advance. A press release from USG enumerates the grounds for impeachment, which also included her allegedly releasing the details of a student’s private case with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and failing to attend meetings. Though FIRE has no position on the latter charge (Murray claims those meetings interfered with classes), USG was wrong in citing Murray’s constitutionally protected speech as justification for impeaching her.» Read More
Last week, in the space of 24 hours, FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project scored two victories in the fight for First Amendment rights on campus. On December 2, 2014, the University of Hawaii (UH) agreed to a settlement with two students, Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone, who had been stopped from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution and ordered to keep their protest against the National Security Agency inside the Hilo campus’ free speech zone. The next day, California’s Citrus College settled with student Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle, who sued the school with FIRE’s help after he was forbidden to circulate a petition outside of Citrus’s designated free-speech zone.
Check out some of the recent news coverage of the victories:» Read More
Category: The Torch
Schools: Citrus College
University of Hawaii at Hilo
Cases: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project Citrus College – Stand Up For Speech University of Hawaii at Hilo – Speech Code Litigation
The United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism discussed the issue of campus sexual assault in a nearly two-hour-long hearing earlier today. Chaired by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the hearing primarily explored the importance of formally involving law enforcement in addressing this issue.» Read More
University of Iowa (UI) students, faculty, and administrators are speaking out in support of the censorship of a statue created and displayed on campus by visiting professor Serhat Tanyolacar that they say constitutes “hate speech.” Tanyolacar’s piece comprised a seven foot tall sculpture of a Ku Klux Klan member whose robes are crafted from newspaper articles about racial violence. Many members of the UI community, however, ignored the intended anti-racist message of the piece and instead demanded that the university take action against what they perceive as a racist display—and the university is complying.» Read More
Students and faculty members at Columbia University have recently been amping up their demands for reform of the university’s policies and practices regarding free speech on campus. Seeing this type of awareness and activism from members of a university community is encouraging, and we hope it prompts the Columbia administration to re-examine its approach to campus discussion and dialogue. However, the students and professors who are leading this praiseworthy charge should be aware of the specific problems with Columbia’s “red light” and “yellow light” speech codes, and they should also focus their efforts on getting those policies changed.» Read More
Emily Yoffe has thoroughly examined and thoughtfully considered the complex issue of how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault, and the result is a must-read article published yesterday in Slate.» Read More
Category: The Torch
Schools: University of Virginia
University of North Dakota
Cases: Occidental College: Student Found Guilty of Sexual Assault After Incapacitation Standard Is Misapplied National: White House Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault Jeopardizes Student Due Process University of North Dakota: Accuser Is Criminally Charged with Lying to Police, But School Refuses to Reopen Misconduct Case
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2014: Pennsylvania State University (Penn State).
At Penn State, “Sexual Harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted, inappropriate, or unconsented to.” This is a staggeringly broad definition that includes a tremendous amount of protected speech. According to the plain language of this policy, a single off-color joke or comment is sufficient to constitute sexual harassment if someone subjectively finds it inappropriate, or merely doesn’t consent to hearing it. This is a clear violation of students’ First Amendment rights, which Penn State—as a public university—is legally bound to uphold.» Read More
Category: Speech Code of the Month
Schools: Pennsylvania State University – University Park
University of Montana
Cases: Departments of Education and Justice: National “Blueprint” for Unconstitutional Speech Codes
Officials at Marywood University in Pennsylvania removed student protesters’ display of an American flag with slogans written on it last Tuesday night after the protest caused offense on campus.
The controversy emerged after students held an event in support of Ferguson, Missouri, protesters in the school’s campus rotunda. The protest featured a flag that had been hung upside down and covered in messages such as “No justice on stolen land” and “#BlackLivesMatter.” University administrators took down the flag after receiving complaints from students and school officials.» Read More
Category: The Torch